The final report issued by the Presidential Commission on last year's BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill contains recommendations that agree with proposed offshore oil drilling rig safety legislation advocated by U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA). The report, ordered by the President on May 22, 2010, was reviewed today at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee hearing. Among the report's recommendations were requiring third-party certification of safety systems and investing in oil spill cleanup technology research and development to bring equipment into the 21st century. Cantwell has authored and advocated for legislation that meets these recommendations.
"I commend the bipartisan panel for its work. I am pleased to see that the report recommends third-party audits and certification for the offshore oil drilling industry and investment in updating our sorely-outdated oil spill cleanup technologies -- both core goals of legislation for which I have previously advocated," Senator Cantwell said. "With the Commission's report and recommendations, we can get to work trying to prevent a similar tragedy from ever happening again. This includes giving regulators the tools and resources they need to do their jobs effectively, although ultimately we need to wean America off our unsustainable addiction to fossil fuels."
In the aftermath of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Cantwell has introduced legislation to significantly improve oversight and safety of offshore drilling rigs. Under current regulations, a full, top-to-bottom third-party certification of drilling systems is not mandated, meaning problems with critical drilling and safety technology such as blowout preventers can go undetected. Cantwell has introduced legislation that would fill that regulatory gap by requiring all components of offshore drilling rigs to undergo a comprehensive surface-to-seabed review by independent technical and engineering experts.
Cantwell has also introduced legislation that would require the oil industry to continually integrate the latest technologies into oil spill response plans. Chronic under-investment in oil spill research and development is coupled with a lack of incentives or requirements for industry to adopt new cleanup technologies -- even those that are proven effective. As a result, industry lacks the advanced tools it needs when responding to major oil spill disasters like the ongoing BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
And yesterday, Cantwell introduced legislation along with Senator Barbara Boxer (D-WA) to permanently ban oil and gas drilling off the West Coast of the United States.
Cantwell has been calling for spill prevention and coastal protection legislation since long before the Deepwater Horizon spill. For nearly four years, Cantwell fought to enact a U.S. Coast Guard authorization bill that among other provisions, strengthens oil spill protections for Puget Sound and other U.S. coastal waters. The bill, which was signed into law on October 15, 2010, includes Cantwell authored provisions that significantly enhance oil spill response and prevention to protect our valuable coastal communities and their economies. The legislation expands federal oil spill response requirements west to Cape Flattery ensuring that Puget Sound and the entire Strait of Juan de Fuca have spill response teams and equipment in place. The bill further reduces traffic in the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary; enhances spill prevention efforts on vessels transporting oil; and establishes a stronger role for tribes.
Previously, Cantwell championed legislation requiring a year-round Neah Bay rescue tug near the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Approximately 600 oil tankers and 3,000 oil barges travel through Puget Sound's fragile ecosystem annually, carrying about 15 billion gallons of oil to Washington's five refineries.